MAY 14, 1968


Born on November 13, 1930, in Fort Mill, South Carolina, Williams joined the Navy in 1947.  For his last tour, then-BM1 Williams asked to command a Patrol Boat Riverine (PBR) along the Mekong River.  On October 31, 1966, his PBR was attacked by 2 enemy boats.  Destroying one, his crew pursued the other right into an enemy stronghold.  In 3 hours, it destroyed 60+ enemy boats, inflicting heavy casualties.  For this, he received the Medal of Honor (MOH).  In 1967, Williams retired as the most decorated Navy enlisted man, the only enlisted man to earn the “Big 3” [MOH, Navy Cross, and Silver Star (2)], and first person to earn the Navy’s “Top 7”—adding the Legion of Merit, Navy and Marine Corps Medal (2), Bronze Star (3), and Purple Heart (3).  Williams then joined the U.S. Marshal Service.  In 1977, he became an honorary Chief Boatswain’s Mate.  Williams died October 13, 1999, and is buried in Florence, South Carolina.  In 2004, the Navy named a destroyer, the USS James E. Williams (DDG 95), for him.

Sources:  Jeff Edwards, “James E. Williams, Medal of Honor: The Most Decorated Enlisted Sailor in the US Navy,” War History on Line, 9/15/2017.  Retrieved 6/30/2019, CDR Roy A. Mosteller, USNR (Retired), “James Elliot “Willie” Williams,” The United States Navy Memorial.  Retrieved 6/30/2019, “Native Heritage, Navy Pride,” America’s Navy forged By The Sea, 11/25/2015.  Retrieved 6/30/2019,
Photo:  U.S. Navy, pre-1967.  Official Navy photo.  Public Domain.  Photograph taken by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.  

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